Beating Back Those Big Bad Health Habits
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January 17, 2014

You're in the doldrums and not sleeping. You're tired of the skirmishes over late support and cancellations on visitation. You're holding up the fort - too much of it - financially, logistically, emotionally.

Woman Drowning her Sorrows.pngYou're tired. So tired. And you're doing everything on too little sleep, which means you're munching throughout the day and going for more sugary and carb-heavy foods to keep going.

Then there's the beer, the cocktail, the two or three or more when the kids are finally quiet and sleeping.

Your daily run?

Gone.

Your attention to fruits and veggies?

Hey - Cheese puffs are orange. Does that count?

Maybe you make sure the kids are eating well, but by the time you worry about your plate, you've sacrificed the healthier options to jolt of juice you get from chocolate and pop tarts.

Finding Your Health Discipline Again

So how do you get your mojo back when you're not sleeping well, you're perpetually stressed, and the emotional strain of a break-up leaves you feeling unworthy? What if the only thing that offers relief is that drink when the homework helping for the night is behind you, or the two bowls of ice cream after the kids are settled in with their books or screens?

Getting yourself back to "yourself" - or putting together the pieces of a better "new" self won't happen by not eating well, not exercising, and not counting the drinks - sugary or alcoholic - not to mention the cigarettes. 

  • How do you motivate yourself to get back to a better routine?
  • What if you need professional help?
  • How do you even know what your nutritional needs are?

When in doubt, talk to your doctor or nutritionist! But if you're like many of us, you know exactly what you ought to be eating and how long it's been since you last ate well. Without question, it can be confusing to know what healthy foods to eat and how much, but shouldn't you try to get back on track?

Getting Your Act Together Ain't Easy

It's simple to say, and not easy to do. "Just get it together" may be the mantra you tell yourself, and your friends and family are singing the same tune.

I know. I've been there. Not only during the long months of the divorcing process itself, but the many years that followed when I was dealing with uncertainty over the emotional well-being of my kids, an ex who loved to push my buttons, constant money struggles (and skirmishes over monies due), and simply put... I was wiped out. Raising two kids on my own and keeping my shit together? Half the time I was so tired I could hardly move, much less take care of my own needs.

And what some see as bad habits? They're coping mechanisms - and more. The sugar gives you a (temporary) boost; the drink allows you a (momentary) breath. But these can easily become unhealthy habits - often worsening other areas of your life (self-esteem and consequently socializing). 

Still, these are habits - and habits can be established or broken.

According to Dictionary.com, a habit is

"an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary."

And you can say good riddance to bad habits! According to some experts, you can establish a new habit in 21 to 28 days, while others believe it may take up to two months. But the point is - you can do it - and if you don't accomplish it the first time out, beating yourself up won't help - so don't!

How to Establish Healthy Routines... When...

So how to establish a healthy routine when you feel like crap? When you don't sleep? When your ex is hassling you over everything? When you're looking for work - or more work - to cover the post-divorce bills? How do you find the time - or make the time - when your body won't sleep or your crazy schedule doesn't seem to include it?

divorce-whirlwind-Woman-Thinking-211x300.pngWhat if you've lost your confidence? You're out of practice at dating? You're hiding behind an excess of food, or drink, or the kids, or work?

Be honest with yourself. Know you aren't alone. Ask for help.

The only way I was able to reset any of my good habits over the years - and yes, there have been lapses - was to talk and listen. I had to ask for help, take advice, and it's never been easy for me.

Maybe you have a friend to confide in on the phone or online, one who won't judge or one who's been there. Maybe you have an online community in which you can discuss the challenges and also encourage each other to put down the Reeses Cups in favor of the carrot sticks.

Maybe you can find a counselor or therapist, or a clergyman or family member who is particularly sensitive and willing to listen. And support your genuine desire to make positive changes.

Maybe you enlist your kids in a daily walk, or in cooking healthy soups with you in the kitchen. Maybe you involve them in your diet (make it reasonable), or in cutting back on the cigarettes.

Maybe you let them help you - in your taking a little bit of time for something you love, even if it's 20 minutes at night to read a book.

Healthy Lifestyle: Are We There Yet?

If you ask me, there is no magic destination for the ultimate "healthy lifestyle" any more than there is the "happily ever after." But we can achieve improvements that become good habits rather than bad. After all, if we aren't healthy, we won't be here for our kids in the ways that we want to be. Equally concerning - they'll learn terrible models of behavior from our poor examples of self-care.

Incidentally, in the "healthy lifestyle" category I also include relationships. Some may try to bury pain or stress in pursuing toxic men that become bad habits - bad for you, bad for your kids. Sure, dating after divorce may have its heartaches, and seem too much at times. But eventually, it can also bring lovely, rejuvenating, connective experiences.

Am I "there" yet - in the land of the Healthy Lifestyle?

My vulnerabilities have always been around food and sleep. I am "suggestible" when it comes to  (emotional) overeating, and I am a challenged sleeper. 

I have my moments when I do better than others, and times when stress and fatigue send me back to bad habits. I remind myself - or others remind me - to refocus and try again, to reach out for help if necessary, and to do it for my children, as much as for me.

 

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